The gambling world has faced the issue of cheating since its very beginnings. Gamblers have worked for centuries to buck the house advantage at various games. This effort to cheat the house out of its money has been substantial in Roulette. Albert Einstein once noted that the only way to beat the house at Roulette is to steal money. This perception about the difficulty of winning at Roulette has driven various schemes by gamblers over the past two centuries. Roulette cheating has evolved from claims made by gamblers against the house to accusations by the house against players.
The early years of Roulette featured a number of schemes by casinos to avoid paying out on winning wagers. Casinos from Paris to New Orleans hid the wheel from the players with the intention of maintaining the sanctity of the game. This approach left open the possibility of games rigged by the house against unsuspecting gamblers. Unscrupulous casinos and Roulette operators would also fix the table so that it would fall on the house numbers more often. Transparency in the gambling industry eliminated many of these practices by the 20th century.
Roulette cheating has taken various forms since the 19th century. The famed gambler Joseph Jaggers used simple observation to swindle Monte Carlo casinos out of money in 1873. Jaggers brought six partners to Monte Carlo to observe all of the Roulette tables in the casino. This observation led to the discovery of a wheel that was landing on a certain number much more than average. Jaggers and his team were able to win more than $300,000 by betting this table. Monte Carlo responded by attempting to sue Jaggers and by fixing the wheel so that it would land on numbers randomly.
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Advancements in technology allowed Roulette cheating to catch up to changes in the game. Casinos began to use more advanced Roulette wheels in the 20th century to offset concerns about wheel bias. This evolution took place in the 1980s after an incident in Great Britain where American gamblers were able to take advantage of biased tables. Wheel manufacturers like John Huxley and George Melas outfitted casinos around the world with improved wheels starting in 1986. This technological advancement forced gamblers and mathematicians to figure out new ways to cheat Roulette tables.
Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo used computer analysis and prediction to crack the code on new Roulette wheels. Garcia-Pelayo recorded the results of Roulette tables at the Casino de Madrid in Spain. These results were inputted into a computer program that determined which numbers were most likely to win. He returned to the casino with knowledge that busted through the house advantage to make him a millionaire. The Casino de Madrid attempted to win back the money in court in the mid-1990s but failed to prove that its wheel was not biased.
Attempts to cheat at Roulette have gotten the attention of scientists and academicians in recent years. Mathematician Claude Shannon posited a computer program in the 1960s that could predict where a Roulette ball would land. This program would be installed in a portable computer that could be worn clandestinely through a casino. Shannon's computer program would have timed the speed of the ball and wheel to assess the most likely landing spot. Thomas Bass wrote in The Eudaemonic Pie in 1991 about college students who used a form of Shannon's computer program to gain advantages at Roulette tables. TV presenter Derren Brown used an element of Shannon's theory as part of a 2009 show about Roulette. Brown wagered 5,000 pounds on a number determined by calculating the most likely landing spot for the ball based on physics. This bet failed though Brown was only one number away from winning the bet.